Carson Van Osten, Ex-Todd Rundgren Sideman, Dies
The pair first collaborated in an early group called Woody's Truck Stop, then co-founded Nazz in 1967, releasing an early version of Rundgren's No. 5 1972 solo hit "Hello It's Me." Thom Mooney and Robert "Stewkey" Antoni rounded out a lineup that focused on psychedelic and garage rock mixed with power pop. Their first appearance was as an opening act with the Doors, and Nazz found very modest early success with a self-titled debut album that also included "Open My Eyes."
Unfortunately, the latter song wouldn't earn widespread notice until its inclusion on the 1972 compilation Nuggets. Nazz Nazz followed in 1969, but by then the band was disintegrating. Rundgren departed and, soon after, so did Van Osten. Rick Nielsen briefly joined, and a collection of odds and ends arrived in 1971, titled Nazz III. By then, however, Rundgren was gearing up for Something/Anything?, the gold-selling solo double album that featured his own version of "Hello It's Me."
Van Osten, meanwhile, returned to his roots as a former student at the Philadelphia College of Art. He joined Disney as a writer and artist at the turn of the 1970s, becoming a staff comic artist in '74. "For me, Walt Disney Studios was really kind of like an ivory tower," he once said. "Whenever I draw Mickey Mouse, I don't realize it, but I start smiling."
After helping to create comic books featuring Mickey Mouse and Goofy through the late '70s, he was named manager of creative services with Disney consumer products in 1980. There, Van Osten oversaw motion picture tie-in advertising – and, in a return to his roots with Rundgren, the Disney music company.
Van Osten earned the first of a series of vice president-level positions with the company in 1988. Among his most notable projects was the design of the Walt Disney Studios logo. Van Osten earned the Disney Legends award for his service in August 2015, sharing the bill with George Lucas.
Antoni later revived Nazz around a new lineup, with dates commencing in 2006. Nielsen would go on to form the nucleus of Cheap Trick, and they used Rundgren as producer on 1983's Next Position Please. Van Osten, who died on Dec. 22, leaves behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren.
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